Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Open wounds: Rethinking trauma in twentieth-century literature and visual culture
by Kessel, Shayna, Ph.D., University of Southern California, 2011, 332; 3466032
Abstract (Summary)

"Open Wounds: Rethinking Trauma in Twentieth-Century Literature and Visual Culture" proposes an alternative thinking of trauma and the traumatic event. The dissertation begins by revisiting Freud's work on war neuroses, trauma, and mourning and the field called trauma studies that subsequently developed. Alongside Freud and the work of leading figures in trauma studies such as Cathy Caruth and Shoshana Felman, I examine Jacques Derrida's thinking of the event. Derrida understands an event as an arrival of the radical other that is always traumatizing in that it wounds, interrupts, or ruptures a subject. Where Freud understands a traumatic event as occurring one time and then identically repeating in a survivor's unconscious, Derrida argues that, like writing, an event must be iterable in order to be legible. The resolution that psychoanalysis seeks for survivors of trauma is impossible in Derrida's thinking; instead, the wound must remain open. According to Derrida, trauma is the condition of anything happening; it is a general, not specific, condition. I examine this thinking of trauma and its implications for the work of art, the literary work, and temporality in texts that radiate from one of the twentieth century's uncontestable traumas: the Holocaust. I read Paul Celan's volume of poetry, Sprachgitter; Weimar-era photomontages by the former Dadaist John Heartfield; W. G. Sebald's novel, Austerlitz; and memorials, monuments, and museums in present-day Berlin that are dedicated to the Holocaust.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Schor, Hilary
Commitee: Lerner, Paul, Tiffany, Daniel
School: University of Southern California
Department: English
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 72/10, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Modern literature, Germanic literature, Art Criticism, Art history, Holocaust Studies
Keywords: Celan, Paul, Derrida, Jacques, Event, Germany, Heartfield, John, Memory, Photomontage, Sebald, W. G., Trauma
Publication Number: 3466032
ISBN: 978-1-124-78781-7
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